By Craig Kwasniewski
The battle of the two best coaches is the NBA is so one sided it's time to throw in the towel. Fact: Phil Jackson owns Greg Popovich and it's not even close. Going head-to-head in the playoffs, Jackson is 4-1 against Popovich's Spurs (18-8 if you count all the games).
Beyond the obvious. let's look at two key adjustments (as Greg Anthony revealed on ESPN) Jackson made for Game 5. First, with the Triangle Offence being well-defended by the Spurs in the first half, Jackson went to a high screen and roll with Kobe and Gasol. What this did was bring Tim Duncan away from the hoop giving Kobe an easier path to the rim. The Lakers ran this play the entire 4th quarter and Kobe capitalized with 17 points, closing out the Spurs in the process. True, Kobe is the best closer in the NBA, but a lot had to do with Jackson opening up the lane with this adjustment.
On defense, the Lakers focused on shutting down Manu Ginobili by forcing him to his right and rotating over if he broke freee from his defender. Ginolibli mught have been hurt, but the difference between good and great players is their ability to make a difference in the game DESPITE injuries (like Kobe's back spasms in the Utah series). I think it's safe to say that Manu's good but not great and the Lakers defense had a lot to do with that.
So while the Lakers wait for Boston to eliminate Detroit (sorry Pistons, but you're too broken to advance), Lakers fans can take solace that there are no coaching peers in the NBA for Phil Jackson. Nine NBA titles, 11 NBA Finals appearances... scoreboard!